Category Archives: BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS 2018



(A biblical refection on THE 29th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME [YEAR B] – 21 October 2018)

Gospel Reading: Mark 10:35-45 

First Reading: Isaiah 53:10-11; Psalms: Psalm 33:4-5,18-19,20,22; Second Reading: Hebrews 4:14-16 

The Scripture Text

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to Him, and said to Him, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And they said to Him, “Grant us to sit, one at Your right hand and one at Your left, in Your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what You are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at My right hand or at My left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to Him and said to them, “You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:35-45 RSV)

In today’s Gospel, James and John ask Jesus if they could sit at His right and at His left when He comes into His glory. Like many of the Jews of that day, these two brothers were expecting a political/military Messiah through whom God would defeat their enemies, conquer the world, and establish a Kingdom of justice and peace (that’s what they meant when they talked about Jesus coming into His glory).

The seats on either side of the royal throne were places of honor the king reserved for the prime minister and the prince successor. Those who sat in these seats were in a very powerful position because, unlike everyone else who had to request a special audience with the king and perhaps wait days or weeks for the opportunity to talk to him, they merely had to lean over and whisper in the king’s ear. Therefore, we can conclude that James’ and John’s request to sit at Jesus’ right and left was nothing less than a bold attempt to gain power by trying to get Jesus to guarantee they would occupy the places of honor when He, the Messiah, established His Kingdom. There are two explanations why James and John thought they deserved special treatment.

Scripture scholars believe James and John were probably part of Jesus’ inner circle of disciples because whenever the Gospels list the twelve apostles,, they always name Peter first and James and John second and third. It seems like Jesus favored these three apostles and even allowed them to witness events the other apostles did not (e.g. the transfiguration and when Jesus brought a little girl back to life).

According to three of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), James and John were fishing with their father Zebedee and the hired hands when Jesus called them to be His disciples. Zebedee’s fishing business must have been providing him with a comfortable living if he was able to employ not only his own sons, but others as well. Therefore, since James and John were from a more financially prosperous family than most people, including the other apostles, they may have thought they were better and deserved special honors.

Tradition tells us all of the apostles were martyrs except John. However, today’s Gospel ends with Jesus predicting that John, too, will die for his faith. Was John a martyr or did he live to a ripe old age? No one knows for sure.

The apostles experienced petty jealousies and they competed for Jesus’ attention and approval. Jesus told them not to worry about who was the greatest but to focus on serving others.

(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 214-215.)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we hereby commit ourselves to You, to love one another sincerely, to serve one another humbly, as You have loved and served us. Amen. 

Jakarta, 19 October 2018 

A Christian Pilgrim


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(A biblical refection on THE 28th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME [YEAR B] – 14 October 2018)

Gospel Reading: Mark 10:17-30 

First Reading: Wisdom 7:7-11; Psalms: Psalm 90:12-17; Second Reading: Hebrews 4:12-13 

The Scripture Text

And as He was setting out on His journey, a man ran up and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to Him, “Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth.” And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions. 

And Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the Kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the Kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” Peter began to say to Him, “Lord, we have left everything and followed You.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for My sake and for the Gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:17-30 RSV) 

When Jesus says in today’s Gospel that it is difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God, the apostles can’t believe t heir ears because, like many of the other Jews of their day, they thought the rich had the best shot at being holy.

The Jews considered their laws to be a road map to holiness. A person who followed the laws was holy and someone who broke a law (even if they didn’t know what it was) was a sinner. Since most poor people had to work long hours for the basic necessities of life, hey didn’t have the time to study and learn all the Jewish laws in Scripture and tradition. Therefore, holiness was out of their reach.

Because the rich didn’t have to work so hard, they were able to devote more of their time to learning the interpretations of the law and had a better chance at being holy. Some of them even believed their prosperity was a sign that God was indeed pleased with them.

When Jesus says it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God, He isn’t talking about a sewing needle. Instead, He may be referring to a gate of the city of Jerusalem.

Ancient people built high walls around their cities for protection from hostile armies. They opened gates in the morning and closed these gates at dusk so invaders could not enter the city at night and capture it while everyone slept. The city of Jerusalem had seven main gates and several smaller ones. These gates were narrow and low so the enemy could not ride in on horseback but would first have to dismount and then proceed in on foot. The people of Jerusalem nicknamed one low and narrow gate “the eye of the needle”.

Although this gate kept the enemy out, it also made it difficult for traders who came from distant lands (often with camels laden with heavy, bulky packages) to get into the city. The trader had to unload all the goods from the camel, get the camel to bend down and squeeze through the gate, carry the goods through the gate himself, and then reload the camel. This whole process was time-consuming, hard work.

Jesus is saying in today’s Gospel that just as it is difficult for a camel to get through the eye of the needle because of the baggage, it is difficult for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God. “If it’s hard for a rich man to be holy”, the apostles must have reasoned, “then what chance do poor fishermen like us have?” Jesus tells them not to despair because He doesn’t measure holiness by what  a person owns, but by what one is willing to give up in order to follow Him. Whoever sacrifices family and possessions for the sake of the Gospel will have everlasting life.

Please take a few minutes to ask ourselves and answer the question honestly: “Would I be willing  to sacrifice some of my own wealth to spread the Gospel? 

(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 212-213.)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I surrender everything that I am to You. Search my heart and show me what hinders me from answering Your call in every moment of my life. Amen.

Jakarta, 13 October 2018 

A Christian Pilgrim


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(A biblical refection on THE 27th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME [YEAR B] – 7 October 2018)


Gospel Reading: Mark 10:2-16 

First Reading: Genesis 2:18-24; Psalms: Psalm 128:1-6; Second Reading: Hebrews 2:9-11 

The Scripture Text

And Pharisees came up and in order to test Him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away.” But Jesus said to them, “For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one. So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

And in the house the disciples asked Him again about this matter. And He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

And they were bringing children to Him, that He might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it He was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to Me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the Kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And He took them in His arms and blessed them, laying His hands upon them. (Mark 10:2-16 RSV)

The Jewish faith has a great respect for marriage, but it also recognizes that divorce is possible under certain conditions. In Deuteronomy 24:1, there is a law permitting a man to divorce his wife if he finds some “indecency” in her. In Jesus’ day, there were two different ways the rabbis interpreted this passage.

One group of rabbis taught indecency meant adultery and they believed a man could divorce his wife only if she was unfaithful to him. Another group said indecency pertained to trivial matters like being a lousy cook or embarrassing her husband in public. You can guess which of these two interpretations of the law was more popular.

Although the man could divorce his wife, the wife could not divorce her husband without his permission . Even then, Jewish law recognized only a few conditions under which this was possible (e.g., if he became a leper or raped a virgin). This unequal treatment undoubtedly was the result of the male dominated society.

When a man decided to divorce his wife, he had only to write a note declaring his intention to divorce her (that’s the decree of divorce in today’s Gospel) and then give this note to her in the presence of witnesses. It was that easy!

Quoting Genesis 2, Jesus rejects the liberal understanding of divorce and says marriage is forever. A man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery. Likewise, a woman who divorces her husband and marries another man also commits adultery.

This teaching poses many problems for Christians who want to uphold the sanctity of marriage but also want to show compassion for those who realize they made a mistake. Did Jesus mean that a couple who are in a bad marriage must either stay married for the rest of their lives or remain single if they choose to get a divorce? Or was Jesus speaking about the ideal for which all of us should strive but not necessarily attain?

Different Christian denominations answer these questions in a variety of ways, some permitting divorce and remarriage, others prohibiting it, and still others granting annulments. The one thing certain about this issue is that it will continue to be the focus of theological and scriptural debates for many years to come.

Because divorce is often a very painful experience, those who are going through it need to be supported and prayed for, not condemned. 

(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 210-211.)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to overcome all disunity. Pour out Your grace on every family that has been through divorce. Heal them and restore their hope. Let Your love flow in all of us and flow out of us so that we might be Your witnesses. Amen. 

Jakarta, 5 October 2018 

A Christian Pilgrim


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(A biblical refection on THE 26th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME [YEAR B] – 30 September 2018)

 Gospel Reading: Mark 9:38-43,45,47-48 

First Reading: Numbers 11:25-29; Psalms: Psalm 19:8,10,12-14; Second Reading: James 5:1-6 

The Scripture Text

John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in My name will be able soon after to speak evil of Me. For he that is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the Kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. (Mark 9:38-43,45,47-48 RSV) 

At one time, kings tried to marry the daughters of the king of a stronger nation because the stronger king would not likely declare war on a land where his daughter lived. However, kings who married foreign women often ended up worshipping their wife’s gods. In pagan countries, this did not cause a problem since pagans not only believed there were many gods but also often worshiped several gods at the same time. The Jews, on the other hand, believed there was only one true God. Therefore, Jewish kings who married foreign wives were exposing themselves to a dangerous influence that might lead them to be unfaithful to their Jewish beliefs. For this reason, the Old Testament prophets often warned the Jewish kings not to marry foreign women.

The Bible tells us that some of the Jewish kings did indeed take foreign wives and, as the prophets predicted, they began worshiping pagan gods. Because the pagans believed a few of these gods demanded human sacrifice, some Jewish kings sacrificed their own children to the gods in an attempt to appease them.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus says that it would be better to cut off a hand and enter eternal life maimed than to end up in Gehenna with both hands intact. The Hebrew word Gehenna means “valley of Hinnom” which was a ravine located southeast of the city of Jerusalem where some Old Testament Jewish kings offered their children as holocaust sacrifices to the pagan god Molech. Its history led the Jews to believe the valley of Hinnom was good for nothing except for dumping garbage. Because the smell from the trash accumulating there was terrible and smoke from smoldering always covered the area. Gehenna  was good only as a breeding place for worms thriving on the garbage.

Gehenna was so repulsive that some Jews who believed in a life after death used it as a symbol of the punishment awaiting all those who led wicked lives. Worms are those who were in Gehenna and flames continuously consumed them. According to some of the rabbis, the only relief came on the Sabbath, when God had mercy and caused the fires to cease. Biblical scholars sometimes translate Gehenna as “hell”, even though the two concepts differ in significant ways.

(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 208-209.)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, You show Your almighty power in Your mercy and forgiveness. Continue to fill us with Your gifts of love. Help us to hurry toward the eternal life You promise and come to share in the joys of Your Kingdom. We make our prayer through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Jakarta, 28 September 2018 

A Christian Pilgrim

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Posted by on September 29, 2018 in BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS 2018


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(A biblical refection on THE 25th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME [YEAR B] – 23 September, 2018)

Gospel Reading: Mark 9:30-37 

First Reading: Wisdom 2:12,17-20; Psalms: Psalm 54:3-6,8; Second Reading: James 3:16-4:3 

The Scripture Text

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And He would not have any one know it; for He was teaching His disciples, saying to them. “The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He is killed, after three days He will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to ask Him.

And they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house He asked them,
What were you discussing on the way?” But they were silent; for on the way they had discussed with one another who was the greatest. And He sat down and called the twelve; and He said to them, “If any one would be first, He must be last of all and servant of all.” And He took a child, and put Him in the midst of them; and taking him in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent me.”
(Mark 9:30-37)

The Old Testament, in some instances, uses the term “Son of Man” as a title for the Messiah (Savior). We find one such example in the book of Daniel, where the author writes about four powerful but cruel rulers who attempt to conquer the world. In the Jewish mind, these rulers are so ruthless that the author pictures them as four fear-inspiring and hideous beasts (e.g. a leopard with four heads, a beast with ten horns, etc.) After the fourth beast rules, God sends the Son of Man that instills fear but rather like a human being, with justice and compassion.

The apostles also have the picture of a Messiah who will be victorious. Therefore, they do not understand what Jesus means when He tells them in today’s Gospel that the Son of Man will be handed over to His enemies and be put to death. That simply was not supposed to happen.

Believing Jesus is the Messiah, the apostles think of themselves as generals in His army who will share in His victories and be highly respected by the Jewish people. Feeling important, they begin to argue about which one of them ranks the highest. Overhearing their discussion, Jesus tells them that if they want to be great, they have to become lowly servants and must even welcome children for His sake.

Palestine was a dry and dusty land where people wore sandals on their feet. The master of the house usually welcomed his guests by washing their feet himself or by instructing a servant to do it. The more insignificant the guest, the more humiliating this task was. Washing the feet of a rabbi or prominent politician was not as degrading as washing the feet of a fisherman or a shepherd. Since children were on the bottom rung of the social ladder, welcoming a child (washing the child’s feet) was the lowliest of jobs, a very humbling task. This is the type of humility, a humility that compels a person to serve the poorest of the poor and the least significant of society, that should distinguish Jesus’ followers. 

(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 206-207.)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, by Your Holy Spirit, make me a more humble person. Make my heart like Yours. Mold it so that I might find joy in serving others, just as You take great joy in caring for me. Amen.

Jakarta, 22 September 2018 

A Christian Pilgrim

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Posted by on September 22, 2018 in BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS 2018


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(A biblical refection on THE 24th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME [YEAR B] – 16 September, 2018)

Gospel Reading: Mark 8:27-35 

First Reading: Isaiah 50:5-9; Psalms: Psalm 115:1-6,8-9; Second Reading: James 2:14-18 

The Scripture Text

And Jesus went on with His disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I am? And they told Him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered Him, “You are the Christ.” And He charged them to tell no one about Him. 

And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He said this plainly. And Peter took Him, and began to rebuke Him. But turning and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter, and said, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men.” 

And He called to Him the multitude with His disciples, and said to them, “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For who ever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it. (Mark 8:27-35 RSV)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus says we have to deny ourselves and take up our cross if we want to follow Him. He promises whoever saves His life will lose it and whoever gives his life for Him and for the Gospel will save it. Although taking up one’s cross can mean accepting life’s pains and disappointments, there is another possible interpretation.

In ancient times, very religious Jews who wanted to give their lives completely to God symbolically traced the Hebrew letter tau on their forehead. A tau looks like a + or an X. When a person traced it on the forehead, it meant the person belonged to God, similar to the brand put on cattle to identify their owner.

Since the tau resembled a cross, someone who dedicated their life to God in this way took up the cross. Therefore, the expression “to take up one’s cross” can mean giving one’s life to God. When Jesus says we have to deny ourselves and take up our cross to follow Him, he is talking about dedicating ourselves to Him. Those who save their lives (keep their lives for themselves) are the people who do not give their lives over to Him. These people are more concerned with their own pleasures than with pleasing God and, because of this, they will lose their chance at eternal life with Jesus in heaven.

On the other hand, those who give their lives for Jesus’ sake (freely dedicate themselves to Him) live for God rather than for self. God will reward them with eternal life.

Instead of tracing the tau on their foreheads, the early Christians dedicated themselves to Jesus by placing their right hand on their left shoulder and their left hand on their right shoulder, thus making an X (tau) across their chest. This practice gradually evolved into what Catholics and some other Christians now all “making the sign of the cross”. The sign of the cross is like our brand mark with which we identify ourselves as belonging to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. 

(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 204-205.) 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, by Your Holy Spirit make me ready to lose my life for Jesus i.e. to give myself to Him. I do not want to hold something back, i.e. saving my life for myself. I also pray that I will be able to give more of myself to Jesus. Amen. 

Jakarta, 14 September 2018 

A Christian Pilgrim 

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Posted by on September 16, 2018 in BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS 2018


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(A biblical refection on THE 23rd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME [YEAR B], 9 September 2018) 

Gospel Reading: Mark 7:31-37 

First Reading: Isaiah 35:4-7; Psalms: Psalm 146:7-10; Second Reading: James 2:1-5 

The Scripture Text

Then He returned from the region of Tyre, and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to Him a man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech; and they besought Him to lay His hand upon Him. And taking him aside from the multitude privately, He put His fingers into his ears, and He spat and touched his tongue; and looking up to heaven, He sighed, and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And He charged them to tell no one; but the more He charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well; He even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.” (Mark 7:31-37 RSV)

The story in today’s Gospel begins with some people bringing to Jesus a deaf man who had a speech impediment. Taking him aside, Jesus puts His fingers into the man’s ears and touches the man’s tongue with spittle. Looking upward as if He is asking His heavenly Father for assistance, Jesus says to the man “Ephphatha”, an Aramaic word that means “be open”. Immediately, the man is able to hear and he begins to speak clearly.

While it may sound a little crude to us, touching the man’s tongue with saliva was an accepted medical practice. After observing animals licking their wounds to ward off infections, ancient people concluded that if saliva could promote healing in an animal it would also help human beings. However, because the people in Jesus’ day did not understand how or why saliva worked, they thought they could use it to cure all kinds of ailments, including blindness, deafness, and speech problems.

Since Greek is the original language of the Gospels, some people wonder why the evangelist did not translate an Aramaic word like “ephphatha” into its Greek equivalent. Because Aramaic was the everyday language of first-century Palestinian Jews, including Jesus and the apostles, biblical scholars think the Gospel writer preserved “ephphatha” (and a few other Aramaic words we find in the Gospels) in its original language because Jesus actually spoke the word on the occasion described in the story. The written accounts of what Jesus said, although accurately reflecting the substance of His message, are not word-for-word transcripts of His sermons.

The fact that Mark tells us what “ephphatha” means indicates his audience did not know Aramaic and was probably not Jewish. Therefore, Mark most likely wrote his Gospel for Gentile Christians.

Today, let us ask the Lord to open our ears to hear Him. We ask Him to open our eyes to see Him; to clear our speech of all impediments to declaring His goodness. We ask Him to restore us – spirit, mind, and body – to the life He has always intended for each and every one of us. He wants to do it. He has promised that whoever asks with faith will receive (Mark 11:24). He will do what He wants and what He promises!

(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 202-203.)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You do all things well. Thank You for restoring my relationship with God the Father and for pouring out Your Holy Spirit. Fill me today with Your Holy Spirit, so that I might experience life to the full in Your presence. Amen. 

Jakarta, 7 September 2018 

A Christian Pilgrim

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Posted by on September 8, 2018 in BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS 2018


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